US DOE sending mixed signals to Kentucky, IndianaUS DOE sending mixed signals to Kentucky, Indiana

It was a “how’s that again” moment.

I was just informed that when Indiana dropped the Common Core State Standards, the US Department of Education told the Hoosiers they had to introduce new tests right away to keep their No Child Left Behind waiver. As mentioned in this recent Education Week article, Indiana was not allowed to continue using its old ISTEP tests because the old tests were not aligned to the new standards Indiana adopted after dropping Common Core.

Now, here is the “how’s that again” point.

Only a few days ago, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday went ballistic over a similar federal intrusion into Kentucky’s education business.

Holliday was told that even though Kentucky adopted the new Next Generation Science Standards late last year and teachers are already teaching to those standards in the current school term, Kentucky was not allowed to bypass science testing for a year while new, aligned science tests were created. Instead – are you ready for this – Kentucky is being forced by the feds to use old science tests that are not aligned to the new standards.

Let me see if I have this straight. Indiana adopts new standards and must rush creation of new tests – old tests not allowed. Kentucky adopts new standards and must use old tests.

Now, here is an interesting thought. What could happen to the credibility of the new Next Generation Science Standards if Kentucky’s scores drop this coming spring on the old science tests? Keep in mind, the old test looked for factual knowledge, but the new curriculum stresses other “stuff.” So, a drop in scores isn’t totally unlikely. But, if Kentucky’s science scores do drop, could that create a credibility problem for the new standards?

More importantly, does this new-standards-but-old-test plan treat our students and teachers fairly?

Bottom line: Why are the feds telling Kentucky it must do one thing and Indiana the opposite? Where is the logic in that? And, most importantly, how does this help students and teachers?

I hope Commissioner Holliday really lets the feds have it tomorrow.

Taking liberty to the airwaves: BIPPS president Jim Waters on WLAP Thursday morning

Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters will appear on the Leland Conway Show on Lexington’s NewsRadio 630 WLAP-AM on Thursday at 8:05 a.m. to talk about the federal government’s handouts of surplus military equipment to local police departments.

Also, what about that fancy jet the governor’s office was given. Of course, someone paid for that plane, which, even though it’s 30 years old, is still worth a cool $1 million. And it’s not even being used for crime-fighting purposes. It just gets the politicians and bureaucrats from Frankfort to Louisville faster.

Click here to listen live.

BIPPS on LEX18: Someone IS paying for all that surplus military equipment


Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters tells LEX18 investigative reporter Richard Essex that the surplus military equipment given to Kentucky recently – including a jet for the governor to trot around the state in –    is not free.


Rick Hess adds his concerns about the new AP US History course

Rick Hess is a regular blogger for Education Week, and his “Straight Up” blog there gets lots of attention.

So, we surfed right on over when BIPPS reader Prof. Gary Houchens alerted us that Hess had posted a new, rather long blog with his reactions to the new APUSH course, as lots of writers now call the AP US History course.

Hess offers a very interesting read, and you can click here to see why he can now be added to the list of people expressing “cause for concern” about the new APUSH curriculum. As a former high school social studies teacher, Hess’ comments are particularly important.

The AP US History squabble continues

The huge ruckus over the revision to the Advanced Placement US History (APUSH) course that launched in our schools at the beginning of the new term continues with this shot from Stanley Kurtz at the National Review Online.

I’m beginning to think the new APUSH course would have been far less problematic if it had not stumbled over a truth in labeling gaffe. If the course had been titled correctly as something like “A Study of The Disadvantaged and Poor Policy Choices in US History,” things would have been less controversial.

But, the more I read, calling APUSH a “survey” course in US history is problematic labeling, and the criticism seems to be mounting steadily. Certainly, a supposed “survey” (which one online source defines as “a general view, examination, or description of someone or something”) of US history that ignores and does not even mention important individuals like Ben Franklin and James Madison is guaranteed to generate huge push back.

The College Board, which publishes the AP courses, gets no gold star for this mess.

Young freedom-loving citizen: Anti-coal groups need coal to get their enviro-radical message out!

Seth SchattnerYou hear so many news reports from environmental groups about how we need to stop the evil coal industry.   Coal is evil! It causes global warming! It drowns polar bears!  It will turn you into a mutant!

A lot of these activists need to stop and think about how they themselves rely on coal no matter how much they protest otherwise.

What powers the computer that these environmentalist bloggers use to slam coal?  Electricity.

What powers the lights of these studios that activists use to rail against coal’s carbon footprint?  Electricity.

What powers the machines that make the clothing for all these activists?  Electricity

Coal provides around 95 percent of our state’s electricity and 56 percent of the nation’s electricity.  It’s cheaper to harness than a lot of other forms of energy that these environmentalist groups suggest such as solar and wind.

Isn’t it kind of self-defeating for these groups to rail against coal when they wouldn’t be able to get their message out without it?

Lexington resident Seth Schattner received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Northern Kentucky University in December 2012. 

Bluegrass Beacon: Kentucky needs a new story

BluegrassBeaconLogoJamestown now stands face to face with the impact of Fruit of the Loom’s announcement in April that its Russell County plant is closing, which will cost the county one-third of its manufacturing jobs and hit its budget hard.

Judge-Executive Gary Robertson told me the factory’s closing will shrink annual tax revenues by nearly $200,000. The county will plug that gap this year by not filling a vacant road-department position, forgoing a 1.5 percent raise for employees and using $130,000 in additional funds.

“Fortunately, this year we already had our budget in place, but next year it will be a different story,” Robertson said.

But when will Kentucky’s story change?

0Ironically, while I was in Jamestown talking to a community devastated by Fruit of the Loom’s closure, Gov. Steve Beshear tweeted: “#Kentucky jumps 45 spots, now ranks 4th in the nation for having a strong entrepreneurial climate.”

While I understand the need for leaders to offer up some good news, reasonable citizens cannot help but be suspicious of an index produced by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in which a state with the nation’s fifth-highest unemployment rate, a $34.7 billion unfunded public-pension liability and an entire coal industry under siege jumps in a single year from having one of the nation’s worst entrepreneurial climates to being in the nation’s top five.

The index labeled its categories: “establishment growth, establishment growth per capita, business formation rates, patents per 1,000 people and income levels for non-farm proprietors.”

What about “income levels” for those who work for the “proprietors?”

The kind of index would matter most to those losing their jobs by the thousands in the commonwealth’s manufacturing and coal industries would include categories that hard-working Kentuckians understand and that really matter: employment growth, income growth and population growth, which grew between 1990 and 2011 in right-to-work states by 42.6 percent, 209.3 percent and 39.8 percent, respectively.

These figures come – not from some Nebraska university that included California and New York along with Kentucky as being among the nation’s best entrepreneurial climates in its latest index – but rather from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Go to Jamestown and you will discover that when it comes to finding a job that will support a family and a future, it’s not about politics but rather the policies – including a right-to-work law – which local leaders believe will attract new companies, better jobs and fatter paychecks.

“This should not be a political or party-line issue,” said Robertson, a Democrat, who believes a right-to-work law could help his community attract industries from other states.

“This should be about what’s best for our fellow Kentuckians, who are looking for – and will take advantage of – opportunities when they have them,” he said. “(A right-to-work law) could help us get more people working locally for good money rather than having to leave and try and find jobs elsewhere.”

A substantial amount of mail I’ve received during this series of right-to-work columns includes complaints that federal law allowing non-union members to benefit from union representation is a major obstacle to gaining support for a right-to-work law in Kentucky.

But keep in mind that it was labor unions themselves who originally had the most influence over the crafting of federal labor laws, and yet now want to offer the perception that those same laws “force” them into representing non-dues-paying members.

If labor-union bosses really wanted to change the law and allow each individual worker the freedom to accept the risk of representing themselves– even in a union shop – don’t believe for one second that they couldn’t get it done posthaste.

However, Kentucky – like 24 other states have already realized – cannot wait.

Fruit of the Loom will be completely closed down by the end of this year.  Don’t its fine workers deserve the right to work for good wages in a growing state now?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

School Boards Association: Commissioner Holliday to meet with USED Secretary Duncan about the federal agency’s “overreach” into state education decision making

The extraordinary saga of Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday finally having his fill of federal overreach into state education matters continues with this recent news release from the Kentucky School Boards Association.

Reports the KSBA:

“Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is going to take his frustration to Washington, D.C. for a face-to-face discussion with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.”

Coming on top of the recent lawsuit filed by Louisiana’s governor regarding similar federal overreach into that state’s education business, and given the fact that Holliday’s comments as current president of the national Council of Chief State School Officers could represent far more than a Kentucky viewpoint, it looks like Washington’s education ‘over-reachers’ may have a little rebellion on their hands.

Also waiting in the wings is a possible reaction from Oklahoma, which recently dropped Common Core State Standards and almost immediately had its strings-loaded waiver from No Child Left Behind cancelled by the US Secretary of Education in an action that certainly could raise some constitutionalists’ eyebrows.

Bluegrass Beacon: Right-to-work’s hand up better than government handouts

BluegrassBeaconLogoAs a result of increased pressure achieved by a perfect storm of increasing competition from other energy sources along with the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate that Kentucky reduce its CO2 emissions by 18 percent within the next 15 years, thousands of Kentucky coal miners – and myriads more who supply and serve them – have lost their jobs, many of which were well-compensated positions.

What to do?

Earlier this summer, the federal Department of Labor awarded a $7.5 million National Emergency Grant to Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program’s “Hiring Our Miners Everyday (HOME)” program to help now-unemployed coal miners and their spouses get the training, licensing and job-seeking help they need to re-enter the workforce.

0But considering the commonwealth’s lack of correlating economic growth and development needed to meet such demand, could this wind up being a case of being all dressed up and nowhere to go?

While the HOME program funding may be a well-intentioned investment of taxpayer dollars, where will HOME’s beneficiaries find the kind of job that will replace living wage of a high-paying mining job that allows miners to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without being forced to move halfway across the country?

Government can certainly play some important role in terms of providing some resources for training and placement. However, it cannot create the jobs where this training will pay off. At best, it fosters the environment that encourages such growth. At worst, it can unleash its ideologically possessed EPA regulators on an already ailing state economy.

State lawmakers could, for example, demonstrate the ability of government to overcome political strife and deadlock and actually do something that would help unemployed workers by passing a right-to-work law, which would remove a huge obstacle toward attracting manufacturers to Kentucky.

While a right-to-work law will not fix all of our state’s economic woes, I’m confident that some of those manufacturers would be willing to take seriously consider Appalachia. After all, one of their priorities is locating in areas with a sufficient workforce; with the job losses during the past few years, there certainly is an abundance of hard-working Kentuckians in that region.

“By being non-right-to-work, Kentucky misses up to at least 25 percent of all heavy employment economic-development projects looking in the region,” James Medbery of Binswanger company, who serves as a site-selection consultant in several states, including Kentucky, said. “Companies cross the state off the list without giving it another thought.”

Many companies – especially manufacturers – simply don’t want to go where their workers are forced to join a labor union or pay dues.

But they will go to a right-to-work state. And not only will they go, they will hire dedicate, hardworking and loyal employees – a perfect dictionary definition of “unemployed Kentucky coal miner” or any other hardworking job-hunting Kentuckian, for that matter.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real manufacturing GDP grew between 2003 and 2013 by more than 26 percent in states with a right-to-work policy, which is nearly double the growth in states where workers at companies with unions are force to join or risk losing their jobs.

One of the great characteristics of our free-market economic system is that despite the nonsense being sent our way by Washington’s regulators – who know nothing about Kentucky, its people or its coal mines –proven, innovative approaches will still come forth that mitigate at least some of the damage senselessly done to our employment picture.

Passing a right-to-work law will attract all sizes and types of companies.

But most important, they would be the catalyst that gives our unemployed coal miners and out-of-work manufacturing employees what they want most: a hand up in the form of a good job rather than a handout via some costly government program.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Federal hijack of Common Core gets more obvious

While the Common Core State Standards were not created by the federal government, actions with federal grants through Race to the Top competitions and waivers from the No Child Left Behind law have made it obvious that the federal government has more or less hijacked those standards.

New evidence of the federal takeover arose recently when the US Department of Education cancelled the Oklahoma waiver from No Child after that state voted Common Core out of its school system.

In essence, Oklahoma has lost control of its own education standards, at least in the eyes of the US Department of Education. Maybe it won’t be long before a second Common Core suit comes along to match the one Louisiana already filed.